Who said Black Sea isn't colorful?
While many tourists flock either to the Aegean or Mediterranean, Turks know the Black Sea Region is just as worthy. Backed by terraced tea plantations among green & cool mountain pastures, Black Sea has a spectacular coastline,too. And what better time of the year than summer to pay a visit to the area.
A city immortalized in the travel books of Marco Polo & Evliya Çelebi, Trabzon owes its fame to its location on the historic Silk Road.
Founded in 386 AD, Sümela Monastery is completely built into the Pontic Mountains, perching on the face of a cliff. Legend has it that the Greek Orthodox Monastery was built upon Virgin Mary’s appeareance to two Athenian monks. I hope you would be luckier in your visit to witness the chapel and the frescoes in & out as the site is currently under restoration.
The 13th-century Byzantine Church of Hagia Sophia, was influenced by Georgian and Seljuk design, although the wall paintings and mosaic floors follow the prevailing Constantinople style of the time. It is well worth a visit with a stone frieze on the south porch depicts the expulsion of Adam and Eve, frescoes of various biblical themes, and the facade that has a relief of an eagle, symbol of the church's founders, the Comnenus family. It was converted into a mosque after Ottoman conquest in 1461, and later used as an ammunition-storage depot and hospital by the Russians, before restoration in the 1960s. It’s not very common that a historical landmark is turned into a mosque after serving as a museum (that is, until 2013) but well, let’s hope it doesn’t set the pace.
Ataturk Pavilion is a three-storey, 19th century mansion, bequeathed to the country’s founder. This is where he spent his days when in Trabzon and in fact wrote part of his will.
One of the symbols of Trabzon is the Uzungöl Nature Park located 95km from the city. The park has a village that was established at the banks of a lake in the middle of the mountainous landscape and plenty of hiking routes. Recent developments and growing number of visitors from the Gulf States have made the center of the village overpopulated, though.
Memişağa Mansion is located on the main road, 4 km east of the Surmene district. The 18th century mansion is famous for its wooden workmanship. It is named after the Ottoman lieutenant Memiş Ağa and run as a cafeteria by the very family. Natural honey can be found here as a result of the popular beekeeping in the region.
Apart from its anchovies & hazelnuts, one thing you shouldn’t miss to taste in Trabzon is “kuymak or mıhlama”. Similar to kachamak in Bulgaria & Macedonia, mamaliga in Romenia & Russia or polenta in Italy, it’s a dish made of cheese,eggs and butter, ideal for breakfast.
Rize is the center of Turkey’s tea industry. However even many Turks don’t know it was once famous for its oranges until the early 20th century. Tea was introduced only in 1940s but is the number one means of living now. Visit either Botanical Tea Garden or one of the tea factories to get a feel of the plant or its production.
Of the attractions in the center are the Genoese Castle dating back to the reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian I, the 16th century İslampaşa Kurşunlu Mosque, Atatürk Museum (aka Mataracı Mehmet Efendi Mansion) which displays the Turkish leader's personal belongings as well as ethnographical artefacts from the region.
One of Karadeniz’s most popular alpine pastures, Ayder Valley is famous for its wooden alpine huts that look out over the deep green valley. Bulut Waterfall in the valley, with It is a 200-meter until the stream, is one of the tallest waterfalls in Turkey. The valley could be a base option for hikers yet the nature would be better off wih less of hotels around in my opinion.
Quite the active river that rushes through the valley, the Fırtına River is also famous for the 20 Ottoman era bridges that can be found all along its aqueous path. The river is also very popular for canoeing, rafting and ziplining all year round. Mikron Bridge is one of many bridges of Fırtına River, dating back to mid 19th-century.
Zilkale is a medieval castle in the middle of the valley surrounded by the peaks of mountains all around. One of a series of fortifications that once guarded the passage of the Silk Road, the castle offers amazing views from the top. One of Çamlıhemşin’s most important historic sights is believed to have been built in the 14th or 15th century.
Rize is dubbed “the city of waterfalls” with around 100 of them. Relatively small in size but richest in terms of water, Palovit Waterfall is prominent among the most visited spots in the city.
Karaca Cave, located in Torul, province of Gumushane, is actually a network of caves and it is quite stunning due to its underground formations. Inside, visitors can gaze at the stunning stalactites, stalagmites and travertines as well as the large dripstone pools. Location wise, you might wanna include it in your agenda from / to Trabzon.
As you see very briefly, from glacial lakes and plateaus to waterfalls and castles, there are lots of must-sees for visitors to the charming Black Sea of Turkey. This was only a few days trip which could be extended up to 10-14 days along with rest of the towns and cities in the region. You could call it “101-Black Sea”if you have limited time 😉
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